by Matt Schroeder
Fight for joy this holiday season.
That can seem like a strange thing to say regarding the holidays.
“Fight for joy? Why would it be hard to have joy during the holidays? Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best time of year.”
It is true there is no other time of year that brings out cheerfulness and giving like Thanksgiving and Christmas. One holiday season I pulled up to the window at a Chick-fil-a and the server told me the car in front of me paid for my meal. Yahtzee!
What’s not to love about a large man in a red suit flying around the world giving out toys to all? What’s not to love about eating more food in one meal than you should probably eat all week?
So, what’s all this fight for joy stuff?
I genuinely love the holiday season. Especially when Jesus is celebrated well and we don’t lose our minds buying gifts for people, the holidays can truly be a wonderful time.
Having said that, I also know for many, the holidays bring with it some legitimate hurt and frustrations.
While many of us will have endless belly-laughing days this holiday season, there will be disappointment and hard days for others.
For some, this will be the first holiday season without their significant other. Maybe their spouse passed away or has divorced them. The holidays inevitably won’t have the same feelings as before.
For others, this will be the 20th year without their significant other, and the year-after-year beating of loneliness has its toll on the heart.
For some, there’s so much tension with distant family members that you already dread the thought of seeing them.
For some, the holidays make them extra aware of their singleness when they have the desire to be married. Family members with good intentions often say things like, “what’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you married yet?”
Last week, I had an eight-year-old boy come up to me and say, “Mr. Matt, do you like being single?” After you finish laughing, what do you really say to something like that?
If you find yourself in some of these situations, let me first say I’m truly sorry and hurt for you. Loneliness and hurt are something that truly grieves God’s heart to see his children walk through. I want to validate your feelings. God knows your pain and he cares.
I’m praying special blessings over you all who find yourself in these situations. May God fill you with a divine level of peace and comfort as you walk through the next month.
I would like to give you one piece of encouragement towards the Scriptures to hold onto this holiday season.
Proverbs 4:23 has been a bedrock text for me for many years, and I hope you will find similar comfort in it.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
What’s striking to me about this text is that the author calls us to KEEP our hearts with all VIGILANCE. There’s much I could say about this verse, but I simply want to point out the emphasis the author places on US to keep OUR OWN hearts.
He says that springs of life are found in the heart. From the heart is where life and joy are found. When our hearts are resting in the gospel of Jesus, the opportunity for springs of life to abound are present. When our hearts are resting in our gospel-centered identity, joy can abound.
But we must choose to keep our hearts. That means it’s not easy. That means it requires work. It takes prayer. It takes being vigilant to protect our hearts from the lies the enemy wants us to believe.
Again, please don’t hear me dismissing any hurt or disappointment anyone is walking through. I want to validate those feelings and then call all of us Christians to put our ultimate hope in God. And the truth is that placing our hope in God often isn’t easy, it requires effort and prayer.
So, if you struggle with singleness during the holidays, maybe you don’t need to watch 30 holiday rom-coms. (romantic comedies ;)
If you know you’re going to have to be around family who doesn’t love Jesus and it’s going to be difficult, start praying now for those conversations that God would move in powerful ways. Pray for God to heal relationships.
God is calling us to trust in him for all things. He loves us and delights in giving us good gifts. But we must be vigilant at keeping our hearts and minds set on Him, or we can quickly find ourselves drifting into depression, despair, or even bitterness.
God is not calling us to run from all our circumstances and hide in a hole for the next month. He’s calling us to walk in our gospel-identity, trust that he knows exactly where we are, and that he’s walking with us every step of the way. There’s nothing wrong with the holidays, so may we not pendulum swing to the other side.
But what ways can you work to keep your heart this holiday season? What ways can you be intentional about seeking God and trusting him? What ways can you fight for joy in Christ?
Walk in whatever he has for you, because HE LOVES YOU! Trust him. Fight for joy this holiday season!
To those who don’t particularly resonate with the things I’ve said or you feel none of it applies to you, then I would encourage you to keep your eyes and heart open to those around you who might be struggling this holiday season. Ask questions like:
Who are the widows in our community who might need extra comfort?
Who are the ones who come from extremely rough family situations and you know they are going home to non-Christians?
Who are the divorced in our community that feel abandoned?
Who are the singles who might feel left out of community this season?
I’m not saying every single person struggles and wrestles with these things over the holidays, but I can assure you there are some, if not many, who feel these things. Love them well, as the brothers and sisters that they are, this holiday season!